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What's a comment worth? How to better understand student evaluations of teaching

Winai Wongsurawat (School of Management, Asian Institute of Technology, Klong Luang, Thailand)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 1 February 2011




The purpose of this paper is to critically analyze the value of the written comments section on student evaluations of teaching and develop a framework to improve the interpretability of such data.


The paper reviews past investigations into the reliability and interpretability of student evaluations of teaching, and then constructs a framework that can potentially improve the value of data gathered from written comments.


It is shown that including information about the congruence of the comment writer's empirical ratings with those of the average class participant may help instructors separate thoughtful comments that represent the majority sentiment from attitudes of a vocal minority or those with personal biases.

Practical implications

The proposed scheme can be implemented electronically while preserving the confidentiality of the evaluators.


The paper offers constructive suggestions on improving the written comments section, a component of student evaluations of teaching that has so far received little systematic appraisal.



Wongsurawat, W. (2011), "What's a comment worth? How to better understand student evaluations of teaching", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 67-83.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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